As for expressing nobody-but-yourself in words, that means working just a little harder than anybody who isn’t a poet can possibly imagine. Why? Because nothing is quite as easy as using words like somebody else. We all of us do exactly this nearly all of the time — and whenever we do it, we’re not poets.
Take a look at the plants. They come together and thrive peacefully in the garden or park. They lean on each other without trying to outdo one another. They serve as a sign that we can see beyond our differences and embrace each other in love while allowing our uniqueness to add color to our world. If plants can live in harmony and show their beauty to the world, we as humans can do much more.
One of the secrets to my sound is almost beyond explanation. My battered old Martin guitar, Trigger, has the greatest tone I’ve ever heard from a guitar. … If I picked up the finest guitar made this year and tried to play my solos exactly the way you heard them on the radio or even at last night’s show, I’d always be a copy of myself and we’d all end up bored. But if I play an instrument that is now a part of me, and do it according to the way that feels right for me … I’ll always be an original.
―Willie Nelson,“Watch Willie Nelson Tell the Story of His Legendary Guitar, Trigger”, Rolling Stone, February 11, 2015
They thought that it would be a disgrace to go forth as a group. Each entered the forest at a point that he himself had chosen, where it was darkest and there was no path. If there is a path it is someone else’s path and you are not on the adventure.
When we focus on the song of our soul and heart, then others will be touched similarly. Sometimes people wonder or worry whether people will like or approve of their creative expression. It’s none of your business. It’s your business to stay present and focused for the work of your deepest dreams. It might look crooked or strange, or be very odd-but if it delights you, then it is yours, and will find its way into other hearts.
There is no need for us all to be alike and think the same way, neither do we need a common enemy to force us to come together and reach out to each other. If we allow ourselves and everyone else the freedom to fully individuate as spiritual beings in human form, there will be no need for us to be forced by worldly circumstances to take hands and stand together. Our souls will automatically want to flock together, like moths to the flame of our shared Divinity, yet each with wings covered in the glimmering colors and unique patterns of our individual human expression.
A man has no ears for that which he cannot access through experience. To take an extreme case, suppose a book contains only incidents which lie outside the range of general or even rare experience—suppose it to be the first language to express a whole series of experiences. In this case nothing it contains will really be heard at all and thanks to an acoustic delusion people will believe that where nothing is heard there is nothing to hear.
“It is said there are flowers that bloom only once in a hundred years. Why should there not be some that bloom once in a thousand, in ten thousand years? Perhaps we never know about them simply because this “once in a thousand years” has come only today.”
I also tend to like cars that need me. To me, cars are like old screen doors. I know that if I jiggle the latch and move it this way, it will open for me and no one else. And that’s the kind of cars I like. So I’m the worst possible kind of consumer to do a test on. I like idiosyncratic things. I mean Bugatti had that hard-to-make hollow front axle and mechanical brakes, long after everybody else changed to hydraulics. But that’s what gives Bugattis character, and that’s what makes them interesting to me.
Creative people are often accused of narcissism. Can we alter the negative stereotypes and bad behavior associated with artists?
Narcissus by Caravaggio
Greek mythology tells the story of Narcissus, a young hunter who believed he was hot stuff because he was born from the union of a minor river god with a nymph. This boy was, of course, gorgeous and broke heart after heart, including that of the young nymph Echo, who lost her body in the mountains and was reduced to a mystical tape recorder, a disembodied voice that repeats what is spoken. One day, Narcissus stared into a pond and was so captivated by his own reflection that he either drowned or pined away and died. Not too bright, that Narcissus. Yet he gave his name to narcissism and Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Are we artists and creative types like him? Really?
It is worth noting that the name Narcissus may be derived from the Greek word for sleep or numbness. The defining issue for him is that he is insensitive to others and unaware of the world outside of himself. It isn’t simply that he loves himself above everything; it is that he only sees himself. Everything and everyone around him seems designed to bring him his desires and nourishment, and yet he can never quite possess himself or realize his dreams. His lack of empathy has left him unable to understand his place in the world.
Our society, fond of sweeping generalizations, often takes the view that creativity is synonymous with social dysfunction. It is as if creativity immediately soaks up all the space in a person’s life, rendering the artist incapable of empathy or social graces. Where does this come from and why do we perpetuate it by putting up with rotten behavior from people with talent? Just as we encourage young athletes to focus exclusively on their practice or young engineers or scientists to immerse themselves in their studies, we tell young artists that they must focus on their art to the exclusion of other interests, people and experiences. This results in people in all walks of life doing their own thing in a vacuum. No one is listening because no one has been invited to listen. It’s a lonely world.
So, in order to save art we have relied on marketing. Unfortunately, the idolization and demonization of creative people which we favor does not encourage creativity. Creativity exists in spite of it. The romantic ideal of the artist as something of a monster might be good marketing– we seem to love it in our celebrities– but it is a barrier to communication, which is a major purpose of art. Richard Wagner‘s music is not great because he was anti-Semitic, nor is Francis Bacon‘s artwork outstanding because he was abusive and sadistic, although these qualities are present in their work. The Renaissance painter Caravaggio, famous for his beautiful chiaroscuro technique, was a murderer and a bully who attacked people in the street. Had these men been less unpleasant, their works would be more numerous and palatable to people today than they already are. Greatness lies in the ability of the art itself to communicate something about humanity, despite the shortcomings of its creator. Art is never quite what the artist intended, nor is it ever completely what the audience expects. It has a voice of its own. This is why some people are uncomfortable with art and some artists are uncomfortable with people.
René Descartes, Meditations métaphysiques
As human beings we see the world through the mirror of our own consciousness. Each consciousness has its own beauty, its own patterns which are unique, exciting and worthy of exploration. At the same time, there is a danger that, in exploring our own views and ourselves, we might drown in our own reflection without ever communicating it to anyone else or sharing anyone else’s vision. This danger threatens all of us, from businessmen to stay at home moms. Art is one of the few vehicles we have for expressing ourselves and understanding one another. It is vital to our existence, whether we consider ourselves artists or not. Without creativity and empathy we are ants.
Some artists seem to relish the role of the self-absorbed Narcissus, while others are more like Echo, losing their own selves in order to mirror the nonsense of a culture that has lost touch with the world around it. What would happen if we recognized the artist in each of us and defined creativity as an attribute of all human beings instead?
This is part of our strategy at Synkroniciti. We aim to help artists get out of themselves and people to find the artist within. Check out our first workshop, Getting Unstuck, coming up in 2014.